“Do you have an infographic? No??!! OMG!! How can you not have an infographic??!!!???!! You need one desperately if anyone is going to take your brand seriously as content marketers. “
That’s not an actual conversation I have ever overheard, but it is the boiled-down, paraphrased version of the vast majority of advice you’ll find on the intertubes. And so now we find ourselves in the age of “Peak Infographic”, or “Peak Data Visualization” if you want to sound like a snob at parties and impress absolutely no one. There are infographics about sewage treatment, Siamese twins, Cat vs. Dog Ownership, even infographics (Mustachioed 20-somethings everywhere approve!). The question is, is anyone paying attention? Does anyone care?
Let’s start with the raw numbers:
There are 27,964 infographics on Visual.ly as of the writing of this post, 249 infographic posts on good.is/infographics, 1,040 on www.coolinfographics.com, at least 812 on Mashable under the infographic tag, and another 785 on Daily Infographic. That comes out to 30,850 infographics across just 5 of the first places I thought to look. If you search, you can find hundreds of more repositories, lists, and collections of infographics.
30,850 infographics is the equivalent of one new infographic every day for 84 and a half years!
Even if you assume that 25% of these are duplicate submissions, that’s still half a century of daily content. Given that the infographic craze really only took off in the last two years, that would mean:
Over 42 infographics have been created and released PER DAY over the last 2 years.
How many of you look at 42 infographics every day? In fact, how many of you actually look at even one infographic every single day?
The point I’m trying to make is that infographics are far from the magic bullet that many content marketers make them out to be. In fact, by this point in time they are almost more played out than traditional blog posts, and rarely live up to the promise of instant virality.
Before spending $800+ for a good infographic (if you’re spending less than that, you will probably get a poor quality infographic, which will immedeiately tank any chances of success), you need to seriously sit down and ask yourself a couple of questions:
Am I trying to present a large amount of data?
If you aren’t, infographics are almost never the way to go. Things like directions or explanations aren’t very well-suited to the infographic format, simply because the whole point of an infographic is to condense ideas to as little text as possible. You can certainly condense complicated ideas to not very much text, magazine infographics do this all the time to great effect, but it’s rare that it works, and takes a lot of talent to do well. For most people, you would be better served with a blog post, ebook, or other text-oriented method of presentation, or video.
Does the infographic add anything to the underlying point?
Too often, companies make infographics simply for the sake of making infographics, with little thought as to why they are chosing that format. For example, I could have easily turned this blog post into an infographic. I didn’t, and there’s a very good reason for that: it wouldn’t have added anything to the point I’m making. In fact, it would have likely taken away from it. The point of this post, after all, was not to present a huge amount of numbers, but to give context, and context is incredibly difficult to do well in infographic form.
Take for example these questions. Sure, I could have come up with a wonderful little flow-chart of whether you should have an infographic or not, and I’m reasonably certain I could have pulled it off. Still, I would have had to truncate my thoughts, as well as reformat the entire post significantly, and then (as with many infographics) the medium could easily have overtaken the message. As with any content, form should be chosen to strengthen and reinforce the subject, and not taken as a completely separate decision.
Is there a format that can make my point better?
Really think about what you’re trying to say. Think hard. Can it be said better in a blog post, video, etc.? If it can, why are you putting it in an infographic? If you DO decide to go with an infographic, make it amazing. It’s not the most actionable advice, but if your options are to make a mediocre (and be honest with yourself here) infographic or no infographic at all, go for the latter. You’ll save a ton of money and time that you can funnel into other projects, or save until you can come up with an amazing infographic.
What are some cool alternatives?
Now we’re talking. Content marketing is an arms race, which means if you’re using the strategies that everyone else is, you’ve already lost. If you want to keep the internet interested, you have to give it something new, and here are our best guesses for the next big thing:
Interactive Infographics: If you think an infographic is really your best bet for conveying your point, consider adding an interactive element to it. The New York Times has become a master of this, presenting data chock-full of sliders, buttons, toggles, and selectors. One caveat – interactive infographics are notoriously hard to share and spread, so consider having really good screenshots if you want to propagate it.
Video Infographics: Video is hard to do right. Take a look at most marketing videos: they look pretty bootleg, right? Also keep in mind that this is also not a new tactic, and videos are harder for people to interact with, since it requires a commitment of time and having audio turned on. Still, some things can really come to life in a video, and done well this can be extremely effective. Especially further down in your sales funnel.
Minigrahics: Instead of throwing all your stats, numbers, and points into one massive infographic, consider using multiple single-serving graphs as illustrations for a blog article. This gives you two advantages: one, you have more room to explain your point with the data right next to the explanation (instead of constantly having to scroll between what you’re reading and the graphic), and two, your bite-size morsels are much easier to share. For a great example, look at Think With Google’s stats section. Each stat comes with its own graphics that I’ve used hundreds of times in blog posts, on reports, in proposals, and even just arguing on the internet.
Infotweets: Have a couple of pieces of great information? Instead of trying to force them into a standard full-size infographic, consider sending them out as individual infotweets. You can get great exposure quickly, make your point, and it’s significantly cheaper than any other method. Plus, people love random tweets full of numbers. Seriously, go look.
Blog Post: But not just any blog post. A well-formatted, typographically sound blog post. Look at how important stats are pulled out and highlighted in this post. That. You still have plenty of room to say what you want to say, but you also spotlight the data in the same way an infographic could. It’s a win-win.
Whatever method you choose, I think the point here is that if you’re going to throw out a middling standard infographic just to have an infographic, you may as well take that money and set fire to it. Standard infographics suck, and their effectiveness is dropping rapidly. Instead, really think about why you want to display some data, and what would be the best way of making that data useful and interesting, then do that thing.
What do you think? What’s going to replace the infographic as the next big thing in buzz-building?